Genetech, USA

Ira Mellman came to Genentech in the Spring of 2007 as Vice President of Research Oncology, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was chair of his department (Cell Biology), a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, scientific director of the Yale Cancer Center, and Sterling Professor of Cell Biology and Immunobiology. Dr. Mellman has an AB from Oberlin College & Conservatory and a PhD in Genetics from Yale. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rockefeller University with Ralph Steinman, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of dendritic cells. Dr. Mellman’s laboratory is known not only for advances in fundamental cell biology particularly in the area of membrane traffic (including the discovery of endosomes) but also for applying these insights to understanding the cellular basis of the immune response.  Of particular importance to cancer immunotherapy have been his laboratory’s pioneering contributions to elucidating how dendritic cells initiate immunity or maintain immune tolerance, forming the basis for efforts in cancer vaccines.  More recently, his group has turned to elucidating how T cell signaling is regulated by immune checkpoints, and how personalized cancer vaccines and cell-based therapies can be used to enhance anti-tumor T cell responses.  Ira ran all of oncology research at Genentech until the end of 2013 when he decided to concentrate his efforts on the rapidly developing area of cancer immunotherapy and became Vice President of Cancer Immunology.  His group is responsible for having brought Genentech’s anti-PD-L1 antibody, Tecentriq® (atezolizumab), to the clinic; it is now an approved drug for bladder, triple negative breast cancer, small cell lung cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer. Yet, Ira remains a frustrated composer and songwriter, and has recorded two CDs in the little-known genre of “bio-rock”.